Sip On These New Boozy Books

Food & Drink

I love books about alcohol so much that I’ve just finished writing my own — a history of women in beer that drops next September. Writing my annual roundup of new booze books makes for one of my favorite parts of the holiday. If you’re not stuffing stockings with gift cards to struggling independent restaurants or gifting charitably minded libations this year, consider supporting one of these authors who help turn drinking into learning.


Beer and Racism: How Beer Became White, Why It Matters, and the Movements to Change It — With inclusion and equity finally getting the attention it deserves this year, this book couldn’t have come at a better time. University professors Nathaniel G. Chapman and David L. Brunsma delve into subjects like the history of drinking in America, paths to becoming a brewer and craft beer consumer, how marketing segments BIPOC beer drinkers and what movements are moving the industry toward interconnectivity.  

Pilsner: How the Beer of Kings Changed the World —  I’ve been crying for years that the sky will be raining craft pilsners any day now, and so far I’ve only been sort of right. Yes, pilsner popularity has grown somewhat among craft drinkers since around 2015 but not as much as I’ve predicted. No matter, pilsner is the best-selling beer style in the world and the category that houses Bud, Miller and Coors. James Beard-nominated beer journalist Tom Acitelli, author of the foundational The Audacity of Hops, explains this important style in an easy-reading, character-driven narrative. Focusing more on the history than the techniques required to brew this most clean and naked of beers, Acitelli takes readers on a global journey that follows pilsner’s rise to the pinnacle of the beer landscape. 

How Not to Start A F**king Brewery — Ten Business Lessons from the Front Lines of the Craft Beer Industry — Craft brewers are nothing if not a blunt bunch, and Kelly Meyer shows himself to be no different as he humorously dredges up the mistakes he made before and after he opened New Braunfels Brewing outside San Antonio in 2012. Perhaps surprisingly, first brewing a pickle beer in 2015 is not one of them, something I’m glad to report given that I have two later iterations of it currently in my fridge. As Meyer impresses on his readers, you can be a genius at brewing beer and an idiot at running a brewery. In this primer, he passes along the lessons he learned first hand so that readers don’t have to.

Craft Beer for the Geeks — Speaking of irreverence, the boys of Brewdog have put out another book, this one a slightly shrunken coffee-table tome. Illustrated with lots of color photos, this hardback answers the question, “What makes craft beer different from other beer?” With input from the Scottish craft conglomerate’s two founders, author Richard Taylor endeavors to explain the ethos, ingredients, community and innovation that separates craft from corporate. Some of the more elementary sections remind me of the delightful little instructional museum at the brewery’s U.S. HQ in Columbus, Ohio, while deep dives into profiles and pairing guides actually introduce me to people and perspectives I haven’t encountered before.


The Dogfish Head Book: 25 Years of Off-Centered Adventures — In his typical iconoclastic fashion, Dogfish brewery co-founder Sam Calagione begins his third book by describing exactly when and why he got kicked out of prep school. Unlike his two other books, which provided more business advice than anything else, this one is a paean to the past 25 years — a quarter century of helming a brewery that went from the smallest in the United States to part of the biggest. (Note: COVID has delayed publication until spring 2021 but you can place a pre-order now.)

The Beer Diet: How to Drink Beer and Not Gain Weight — I’m hoping natural health journalist Gary Greenberg calls his second edition How to Drink Beer and Eat Unlimited Amounts of Cheesalicious Bar Food and Not Gain Weight. In the non-fantasy version, the slender 66-year-old homebrewer and rugby hobbyist playfully breaks down the elements that do and don’t make beer and other foods fattening and/or unhealthy and slips some tips in there for making drinking part of a nutritious breakfast, I mean lifestyle. While I’m already well-versed in dietary recommendations like brown rice, whole grains and intermittent fasting, I’m speculating readers like some of my dear overweight homebrewer friends could potentially benefit from some basic reminders in Greenberg’s endearingly non-judgmental and storytelling manner.

The Brewing Cloud — Hop Culture founder and Forbes contributor Kenny Gould isn’t just a solid journalist, sharp businessman, kooky artist and all-around great guy, who knew that he’s a fiction writer too? This year he self-published this lighthearted yet bittersweet short-story compendium that turns craft beer archetypes and experiences into living, breathing, intentionally cartoonish characters. To be honest with you, I’m not quite sure if I need to ingest more than zero hallucinogens to figure out if there’s a point or whether it’s just Gould’s creativity escaping from his brain and meandering around the sky unchaperoned. Either way, the whole thing takes about ten minutes to read, and hooray for art simply for art’s sake.

Beer by Design: The Art of Good Beer Branding — Calling his creation “The first ever book to explore and celebrate contemporary British beer design,” British Guild of Beer Writers chair Pete Brown does more than just show us a bunch of cool cans. Rather, he chronicles British beer branding from past to present, demystifies the deconstruction of current conventions, and, yes, explains what it takes to bring that certain je ne sais quois to a successful brewery’s visual identity. The Family Brewers of Britain: A

The Family Brewers of Britain — With craft breweries popping up all over Britain at the same time that conglomerate sharks are continuing to gobble up the smaller fish and putting pub culture in grave danger, it’s a nice time to celebrate the old guard that is generations’ old family breweries. Roger Protz, head of the UK’s Campaign for Real Ale preservation society is not only the perfect person to write this but does a highly commendable job of highlighting the women who often get overlooked in beer histories.

Historical Brewing Techniques: The Lost Art of Farmhouse Brewing — Revered Nordic yeast explorer and blogger Lars Marius Garshol brings his followers to the farmhouses of Northern Europe to unearth the wild yeast strains of the region. With Garshol helping to popularize kviek yeast in the United States lately, the timing of this book should put it on every beer lover’s radar.  

Beer Bread: Brew-Infused Breads, Rolls, Biscuits, Muffins, and More — Ms. Lori Rice, I do believe your title covers just about everything my readers need to know. Thank you. This leaves me more time to salivate over your full-page soft-filtered photos of date and dunkel morning buns; pale ale pretzel rolls with smoked sea salt; and marinated summer tomato witbier flatbread that my kitchen-phobic self is probably never going to make.   


Wine, Unfiltered: Buying, Drinking, and Sharing Natural Wine — This jaunty little hardback makes for a handy starting point for anyone who would ask the question, “What is natural wine?” Katherine Clary answers the five W’s and the FAQ’s directly and concisely enough to come away feeling confident enough to hold court at an office party or on a date, as long as the listener hasn’t read anything more advanced.


Whiskey Master Class: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, and More — What gives whiskey its flavor and aroma, and what makes each whiskey taste different from every other one out there? If the observation from master blender Dr. Bill Lumsden (which inspired longtime whiskey writer Lew Bryson to write this book) that, “If that barrel gives whisky 50% of its flavor … that just means the other 50% doesn’t come from the barrel,” holds true, that gives Bryson plenty to write about.

The Pocket Guide to Whisky, 2nd Edition — Blair Bowman and Nikki Welch have updated their beginners’ pamphlet on navigating whisky by adding the many Scottish micro-distilleries that have opened since they published their original edition and by including the WhiskyTubeMap, which visually arranges selected whiskies on “lines” according to flavor.     

Scotch: A Complete Introduction to Scotland’s Whiskies — I marvel at authors who manage to educate both novices and aficionados in one swoop, and Margarett Waterbury accomplishes this with panache. This serves more as a reference guide to thumb through, look up a review or plan a distillery tour than a narrative to read cover to cover but the founding managing editor of The Whisky Wash does cover the requisite introduction to understanding and appreciating Scotch alongside tasting notes on more than 200 expressions.


Beautiful Booze: Stylish Cocktails to Make at Home — With a title like this, you’d better believe this recipe-focused how-to is filled with Natalie Migliarini’s lush photography of stylized drinks accented by every conceivable flower, fruit and finger food. Co-author James Stevenson adds colorful words to the vibrant pictures.

Growing Your Own Cocktails, Mocktails, Teas & Infusions — Does anyone else feel like someone else is out there living YOUR best life when reading books about growing and foraging for cocktail ingredients? No? Just me? Then you should have no problem actually motivating and executing Jodi Helmer’s instructions on planting yourself a garden-to-glass life. Just send me some results when you’re done, okay?

Drinking with Chickens: Free Range Cocktails for the Happiest Hour — As if it’s not enough to covet someone else’s fabulous botanical garden (see above), now Kate Richards has to go adding, as she says, “gorgeous, loud, egg-laying” chickens to the mix. Okay, Kate. Tell us how your clucking friends act oh-so-adorbs while you sip lilac apricot rum sours and blackberry sage spritzers made with spoils from your Southern California backyard herb farm. I live in sub/urban New Jersey. Trade ya. 

Raise Your Spirits — It’s old news at this point that more people have started mixing up cocktails at home during the pandemic, leading to a spike in sales of spirits and bartools. But longtime New Jersey bar managers Pat Pipi and Jaime Dodge say a high intimidation factor remains. What started out as virtual cocktail classes for the home mixologist designed to raise money for their staff turned into a book that holds newbies’ hands as they learn to become experts behind their own bar.


How to Drink Like a Writer: Recipes for the Cocktails and Libations that Inspired 100 Literary Greats — Considering my favorite literature-adjacent quote is probably 20th century Irish scribe Brendan Behan’s self-observation that, “I’m a drinker with a writing problem,” I’m more than a little intrigued by this book. Everyone knows Ernest Hemingway leaves a namesake daiquiri as a legacy but do you know how to make Edgar Allan Poe’s family recipe for eggnog? Or how Jack Kerouac took his margarita? You will after you read this book. Not to be a buzzkill but be careful, Behan and more than one of the listed authors collapsed into deep alcoholism and in some cases even died from the disease. 

How to Drink: A Classical Guide to the Art of Imbibing — For your snootiest, I mean most erudite friend: a palm-sized translation of an etiquette guide written by a 16th century poet with the original Latin published on each opposite page from the English. These are important tips for a turbulent time. Topics like Do Beware of People Making Insulting Gestures; The Occasional Screwup is Okay, Getting Hammered Every Day Isn’t; and Characters (like heretics and bloviators) to Avoid are just as important now as they were when German writer Vincent Obsopoeus got so fed up with a culture of binging and competitive drinking that he felt compelled to pen the original.

How to Make Hard Seltzer: Refreshing Recipes for Sparkling Libations — This book pisses a lot of beer purists off. With hard seltzer threatening to encroach mightily on craft beer sales; critics don’t appreciate Brewers Publications, the book-publishing arm of the Brewers Association craft brewing trade group, condoning it by commissioning top how-to-homebrew writer Chris Colby to teach people how to do it. But the fact is, a skyrocketing number of craft brewers are making seltzer as a way to financially keep up as beer sales are slowing down, and seltzer’s astonishing trajectory strongly suggests it’s going to compete with beer for a long, long time to come. If you can’t beat ‘em, join em, right?

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